It was another crazy morning. I was on day three of being sick with the cold that was cycling through my family. My six month old was still fighting his cold too so we’d both had a rough night, and my three year old woke up grumpy.
I started our usual Tuesday morning round-up with bleary eyes and a runny nose. Get up. Eat breakfast. Get dressed (which must happen after breakfast or my daughter will need a new outfit). Scramble to brush my hair, toss on some makeup, wrangle the kids and get out the door in time for my weekly church staff meeting. Generally the baby loses patience with this routine somewhere in the middle and spends the remaining twenty minutes MAD. Screaming mad. This particular morning was no different. Except my preschooler was now mad too.
She wanted to wear a sweatshirt with a hood, but not the one I had grabbed for her. The shirt was on the cusp of being too small so I hadn’t weeded it out of her drawer yet. As I ran downstairs to get some freshly laundered diapers for my son she stood at the top of the stairs yelling. She was stuck in the too small sweatshirt and she needed me to help her. Now.
I felt my patience begin to fray.
After I got back upstairs and swapped her old shirt for a new one she moved on to the next crisis. She couldn’t find mittens. She followed me around wailing about this latest catastrophe. As I grabbed the baby to buckle him into his car seat I realized he needed another diaper change before I could finish the job and find the mittens. I switched directions and plopped him onto a blanket while I entreated my preschooler to wait a moment. My daughter only increased the volume of her whining. As I knelt before my baby’s dirty diaper, clock ticking closer to my out the door deadline listening to both of them scream – I lost it.
I turned to my daughter and yelled, “GO AWAY and just be quiet, NOW!” She stopped abruptly, her mouth a shocked little “o”. And then it happened. She looked at me and said, “Mommy, you need to be more patient with me. I’m only little yet.”
I froze, taken completely off guard by her choice of words. Where did she even come up with that? My little girl sounded so grown up as she calmly requested my patience. More importantly, she sounded right. I was having a rough morning and her behavior wasn’t helping but I knew I shouldn’t have lost my temper.
It took me a moment to formulate a response. Part of me wanted to argue and tell her she was the reason I needed more patience. I felt ashamed of myself and I wanted to pin my guilt somewhere else. Instead I took a deep breath and decided to take a few precious minutes of our getting ready time to foster a teachable moment. For both of us.
“I’m sorry honey. I shouldn’t have yelled. I do need to be more patient. But you know what? You need to be more patient with mommy too.”
I explained how frustrated it made me when she and the baby both needed me at the same time, and that it was extra tough because I didn’t feel good and we had to go. Now that she was a big girl she had to be patient when her little brother needed help first. She also needed to be more respectful when she asked for help. Then I sucked up my mommy pride, and told my preschooler I was sorry I snapped at her.
She looked up at me with earnest brown eyes and nodded. She pursed her lips, “I forgive you. Mommy, will you forgive me for my un-patience too?”
I think my heart melted a little.
Somewhere along the line my baby had become a tiny person with big thoughts, and emotions, and words. Our conversation made me realize how fast it’s all going and how much she is learning every day. It reminded me how important it is to carve out time in the midst of the chaos and pounce on those teachable moments. Because she is listening. She is learning.
Today was the result of hundreds of such moments. Hundreds of conversations about patience, and putting others first. Little by little my growing girl was soaking in these words of wisdom.
I began to think about how much I still have to learn about patience. Some days it feels like I am constantly asking for forgiveness. There are moments when I question how God can continue to forgive me time after time as I remake the same mistakes. How does he not lose his patience with me?
When I ask myself that question I think about how much I love my little girl. I would forgive her as many times as she needed forgiving. Not only that, but it gives me great joy when she asks for my forgiveness. The consequences of her actions aren’t erased but I can choose to let her mistake go. How much more does the Father who created me love? He loves me enough to separate my errors from me as far as the east is from the west. No matter how many times I stumble, he will be there to pick me back up. To pick us both up.
I wanted to freeze time and bask a little longer in the glow, but before I was ready the moment had passed and we needed to go.
I smiled and gave my daughter an extra-long hug.
As we dashed out the door I made a mental note for the next time I’m tempted to be “un-patient” with my daughter. I’ll try to remember: she’s only little yet, and she has lots of time to learn. And so do I.
If you liked this post, you may also love: